John McCain Speaks to Veterans of Foreign Wars
A funny thing happened on the way to retreat…
America and its allies started winning a war.
Thanks for General Petraeus, Ambassador Crocker, Republican Senators, Republicans in Congress, and President George W. Bush, the “Surge” is working in Iraq. The young democracy is taking control of the country, violence is down and hope is making a comeback.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (C) cuts a cake during a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the Operation Imposing Law in Baghdad February 15, 2008. (REUTERS/Iraqi Government Office)
This morning Republican Presidential Candidate and war hero Senator John McCain is speaking to the VFW. John McCain understands that the single most important security objective facing this country is a stable Iraq. It will determine the future for this country, the Middle East and the international community. John McCain understands this and his opponents do not.
Last week Ayman al-Zawahiri announced that Al-Qaeda will move in on Jerusalem after the US retreats from Iraq. He’s obviously counting on a Democrat to take the White House. We all know that this would be a disaster. It’s too bad the Democrats don’t.
Excerpts From Remarks As Prepared For Delivery — (Embargoed until 6 AM)
Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Headquarters
Kansas City, MO
April 7, 2008
Thank you. It is an honor to be here today. I’m always grateful to be in the company of Americans who have had the burden of serving our country in distant lands, and the honor of having proved your patriotism in difficult circumstances. Your example is a constant reminder to Americans that we have obligations to our country that are greater than our personal ambitions, and that our self-respect will owe more to how faithfully we keep those obligations than any other success we achieve in life.
At the beginning of last year, we were engaged in a great debate about what to do in Iraq. Four years of a badly-conceived military strategy had brought us almost to the point of no return.
In the year that has passed, our nation showed its strength, and its deep sense of global responsibility. Instead of abandoning Iraq to civil war, genocide, and terror, and the Middle East to the destabilizing effects of these consequences, we changed strategies. We sent to Iraq additional troops, many of them on their third or fourth tour, and a great, seasoned general to lead them, with a battle plan that, at long last, actually addressed the challenges we faced in Iraq.
Within six months, the men and women who have made such enormous sacrifices for the rest of us dramatically turned around the situation in Iraq. From June 2007 through my most recent trip last month, sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq has been reduced by 90 percent. Civilian deaths and deaths of coalition forces fell by 70 percent. The dramatic reduction in violence has opened the way for a return to something approaching normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi. Political reconciliation is occurring across Iraq at the local and provincial grassroots level. Sunni and Shi’a chased from their homes by terrorist and sectarian violence are returning. The “Sons of Iraq” and Awakening movements, where former Sunni insurgents have now joined in the fight against Al Qaeda, continue to grow.
Iraq’s political order is also evolving in hopeful ways. Four out of the six laws cited as benchmarks by the U.S. have been passed by the Iraqi legislature.
Much more needs to be done, and Iraq’s politicians need to know that we expect them to show the necessary leadership to rebuild their country. For only they can.
The job of bringing security to Iraq is not finished.
But there is no doubt about the basic reality in Iraq: we are no longer staring into the abyss of defeat, and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success. Success in Iraq is the establishment of a generally peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic state that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. It is the advance of religious tolerance over violent radicalism. It is a level of security that allows the Iraqi authorities to govern, the average person to live a normal life, and international entities to operate. It is a situation in which the rule of law, after decades of tyranny, takes hold. It is an Iraq where Iraqi forces have the responsibility for enforcing security in their country, and where American troops can return home, with the honor of having secured their country’s interests at great personal cost, and helping another people achieve peace and self-determination.
Today these goals are within reach.
But the question for the next President is not about the past, but about the future and how to secure it. Our most vital security interests are at stake in Iraq. The stability of the entire Middle East, that volatile and critically important region, is at stake. The United States’ credibility as a moral and political leader is at stake. How to safeguard those interests is what we should be debating.
There are those who today argue for a hasty withdrawal from Iraq. Some would withdraw regardless of the consequences. Others say that we can withdraw now and then return if trouble starts again. What they are really proposing, if they mean what they say, is a policy of withdraw and re-invade. For if we withdraw hastily and irresponsibly, we will guarantee the trouble will come immediately. Our allies, Arab countries, the UN, and the Iraqis themselves will not step up to their responsibilities if we recklessly retreat. I can hardly imagine a more imprudent and dangerous course.
Al Qaeda in Iraq will proclaim victory and increase its efforts to provoke sectarian tensions in Iraq into a full scale civil war that could descend into genocide and destabilize the Middle East. Iraq would be a failed state that could become a haven for terrorists to train and plan their operations. Iran’s influence in Iraq – especially southern Iraq – and throughout the region would increase substantially and encourage other countries to seek accommodation with Tehran at the expense of our interests. These likely consequences of America’s failure in Iraq w
ould, almost certainly, require us to return to Iraq or draw us into a wider and far costlier war.
Over the next 18 months, Iraq will conduct two landmark elections—for provincial governments and for the national government. On my most recent trip to Iraq, I met dozens of shopkeepers, workers, city council officials and others, who want Iraqis from all backgrounds to elect local leaders charged with making decisions that reflect the needs and desires of the local populations – not the preferences of Baghdad elites. If we sustain the current progress, those elections can be held in relative freedom and security for the first time since the fall of Saddam. We should welcome a larger United Nations role in supporting the elections under the capable leadership of its Special Envoy, Steffan de Mistura, who is already playing a key role in mediating disputes in areas like Kirkuk.
All this will require that we keep a sufficient level of American forces in Iraq until security conditions are such that our commanders on the ground recommend otherwise. It also means we must increase levels of reconstruction assistance, so that Iraq’s political and economic development can proceed in the security that our forces and Iraqi Security Forces provide.
Economic progress is essential if the security gains in Iraq are to be sustained.
I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there. Our goal is an Iraq that can stand on its own as a democratic ally and a responsible force for peace in its neighborhood. Our goal is an Iraq that no longer needs American troops. And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for President that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership.
The sacrifices made by veterans deserve to be memorialized in something more lasting than marble or bronze or in the fleeting effect of a politician’s speeches. Your valor and devotion to duty have earned your country’s abiding concern for your welfare. And when our government forgets to honor our debts to you, it is a stain upon America’s honor. The Walter Reed scandal recalled, I hope, not just government but the public who elected it, to our responsibilities to the men and women who risked life and limb to meet their responsibilities to us. Such a disgrace is unworthy of the greatest nation on earth.
Those who have borne the burden of war for our sake must be treated fairly and expeditiously as they seek compensation for disability or illness. We owe them compassion, knowledge and hands-on care in their transition to civilian life. We owe them training, rehabilitation and education. We owe their families, parents and caregivers our concern and support. They should never be deprived of quality medical care and mental health care coverage for illness or injury incurred as a result of their service to our country.
As President, I will do everything in my power to ensure that those who serve today and those who have served in the past have access to the highest quality health, mental health and rehabilitative care in the world. The disgrace of Walter Reed must not be forgotten. Neither should we accept a situation in which veterans are denied access to care due to great travel distances, backlogs of appointments, and years of pending disability evaluation and claims. I believe that we should give veterans the option to use a simple plastic card to receive timely and accessible care at a convenient location through a provider of their choosing. I will not stand for requiring veterans to make an appointment to stand in line to make an appointment to stand in line for substandard care of the injuries you have suffered to keep our country safe. Whatever our commitments to veterans cost, we will keep them, as you have kept every commitment to us. The honor of a great nation is at stake.
Ed Morrissey has more at HotAir on the speech and the stupidity of the Obama plan.
** Bob Owens reports on the disgusting media stunt by MSNBC during McCain’s speech.
MORE… My buddies at Another Rovian Conspiracy are suggesting $1 a day for McCain.